In an original addition to China’s rental economy, shopping site Bingxi Culture has launched an “art sharing” platform that allows individuals to lease out works via Alipay.

The service launched in late October, with three cities – Shenzhen, Chongqing, and Nanjing – acting as test sites. Prices vary broadly on objects from a jade-studded bracelet to a modernist painting of Buddha, with rental durations as brief as one week.

Bingxi CEO Tang Xiwen told Southern Metropolis Daily that through the rental platform, she hopes to bring art closer to daily life. On a more practical note, she also commented that as an appreciation of art among the general populace has risen, so has demand for works. Together with the rise of the so-called sharing economy in China as well as online services and logistics, the time seemed ripe to launch an online art-rental platform.

On Alipay, Bingxi’s service looks similar to normal shopping sites, except for the added option of rental. A sizable deposit is required for all items, although users with a high enough Sesame Credit score can opt out.

Image credit: Alipay/Bingxi Culture

In fact, Bingxi Culture’s art-rental app experience isn’t new – it builds on a pre-existing website that allowed customers to “try out” works in their offices or homes instead of outright buying them.

According to Tang, Bingxi is China’s sole rental platform for works of art that are neither copies nor derivative. The company partners with artists and art schools both domestic and international to source its products.

Bingxi’s partnership with Ant Financial seems to have come at a fortuitous time. China’s art market is still booming, having become the second-largest in the world last year thanks to the country’s increasing number of billionaires. In addition, the winning bidder on a record-breaking series of paintings sold last year, Qi Baishi’s Twelve Landscape Screens ($141 million), is Chinese.

By comparison, with rental prices starting at RMB 1,000 for three months, Bingxi’s new platform is a relative steal for less ambitious collectors.

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa.

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